My last daughter moved off to college last week, and I already miss having children around. I work at home teaching, and like many of you, I don't go out a lot right now. But when I do, I like to observe the happy, positive outlook that children exhibit.

I was working in my garden when the three-year-old neighbor girl called to me. “What you doing?”

I stopped and wiped the sweat from my face. “I'm cleaning and pruning my grapes.”

“What do you want to do that for?”

“If a person cleans, fertilizes, and prunes the grapes, they grow a lot better. And I really like grape juice.” I then asked, “So what are you doing?”

“I'm helping my daddy build on our house.”

“He is lucky to have someone like you to help him,” I replied.

She nodded. “I know.”

I thought about when I added on to our house. It was in the winter, and the temperatures were often close to zero. My little three-year-old daughter would get someone to dress her in her insulated coveralls, boots, and big mittens. Then she would come out and sit on the cement and tell me knock-knock jokes. Usually, she made them up on the spot, so they weren't all that funny. But she was cute and brightened my day as I worked, especially since she wanted to be with me. She is now twenty-two, but it seems like just yesterday.

Today, my wife asked me to stop and dig a few flower starts that a lady had offered to her. When I got there, a small boy, about nine-years-old, met me at my car.

“Is your mother home?” I asked.

He didn't answer the question, but asked, “Are you here to dig some plants?”

“Yes,” I replied.

“Then you don't need my mom. She's busy, so I will show you where they are.”

He led me around to the plants in the back yard, and as I started to dig, he started to talk.

“My name is Daniel. I bet you're sick of this isolation thing. I know I sure am. I have lots of friends, but I don't get to see them because I'm not in school. . .”

A little girl that looked just like Daniel eventually joined us.

“This is Lizzy,” Daniel said. “She doesn't go to school because she's only four. A few days ago, it was her birthday, and there was a big wind storm.”

Lizzy nodded. “And I went out in the wind, and it blew me over, and I got hurt.”

Daniel nodded. “Lizzy is the princess of owies. She's always getting hurt.”

“When the wind hurt me, I cried,” Lizzy said. “But when I went in the house, my mom said it wasn't that bad, so I didn't even get a Band-Aid.”

“That's the sad thing about growing up,” I said. “When you get hurt, you seldom get a Band-Aid, and when you do, they're never the fun kind with dinosaurs or ducks or something. They're just plain old brown Band-Aids.”

“That doesn't sound like fun,” Lizzy said. “I hope I don't ever grow up.”

A little blond neighbor girl wandered over. “What are you doing?”

“I'm digging flower starts,” I replied.

“Can I help?” she asked.

“I think you would get your pretty dress all dirty,” I said. “I don't think your mother would like that.”

“I'm sure she wouldn't mind,” the little girl replied. “She sent me outside and said to have fun. And it's more fun if you get dirty.”

I dug for a while, and they continued to talk. I enjoyed their take on life. As I finished digging, Daniel said, “Do you want to see the fort I made?”

We all trooped around the side of the house, with me trying to social distance from my new friends. Daniel had leaned the tree limbs that had broken off in the wind storm against the house. The girls loved it, and I praised him for being so innovative.

As I left, they waved, and Daniel called out, “Come back sometime, and you can play in the fort with us.”

I smiled and thought, “I would like that.”

(Daris Howard, award-winning, syndicated columnist, playwright, and author, can be contacted at daris@darishoward.com; or visit his website at http://www.darishoward.com, to buy his books.)

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